Snake Charmer: 1968 Suzuki T500 Cobra

041416 Barn Finds - 1965 Suzuki T500 - 1

If you’re looking for a summer project bike this one should be on your list. This is a 1968 Suzuki T500 Cobra and it’s a worthy project if there ever was one. This one is an hour southwest of Ann Arbor, Michigan. It’ll need some work as it’s been in storage for the last five years but being a first-year T500 it’s a worthy restoration project. Thanks to Jim S. for tracking this one down!

041416 Barn Finds - 1965 Suzuki T500 - 2

Suzuki had a game-changer on its hands with the Cobra. Released in 1968, the T500 Cobra was the biggest-displacement two-stroke twin-cylinder engine since pre-war England’s Scott bikes that were also water-cooled.  Big two-stroke bikes were known to be hard to handle, overheat, and to use as much gas as a car would. And, in fact the ’68s weren’t too fuel efficient. The ’69 T500 engine was modified to act like a four-stroke and to use much less gas, but a first-year bike is usually the one you want if you’re a collector.

041416 Barn Finds - 1965 Suzuki T500 - 3

The owner says that the gas was drained before the bike was put into storage but they still think that the tank should be lined. They speculate that all it would need to run is to rebuild the carb, put in a new battery, clean the tank, and give it a tune up. They may be right. The paint is faded and you can see a couple of smooth dents, hopefully those can be massaged out. There are only 7,621 miles on this bike, that’s not a lot of miles for a 2008 Suzuki let alone a 1968 Suzuki. You can plan on spending a few hundred dollars if you do the work yourself, or a few thousand if you farm it out. The seller makes a point of saying that this bike has its original baffles and exhaust, which is good; those might be tough to find.

041416 Barn Finds - 1965 Suzuki T500 - 4

This is a 46 hp twin and it looks great. If you do a little metal polishing you’ll be in business, appearance-wise. Some of the chrome will need to be redone, or you could just get everything working perfectly, clean everything up as good as you can, and drive it as an all-original example. I could go either way on this one, I would love to have it restored to like new condition again. But, there’s something about a great-running bike that looks like this; a little hazy and dull and used. I would probably change the rubber parts and cables and go through the fuel system and brakes and get things working reliably and just drive it as it looks now while I mulled over whether to restore it or not.

This bike is listed on eBay with five days left on the auction and the bid is just a bit over $600! If this thing goes for less than $2,000 it’ll be painful to have let it go. Would would you do with this Cobra, restore it to show bike condition or get it working and drive it as it looks now?

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Comments

  1. z1rider

    Is this the bike that would become the 500 Titan?

    After riding many Honda 100’s as a teenager where you are running WOT most of the time (at least when you were not on the brakes), I was given the chance to ride a Titan. Reflexively I snapped open the throttle as usual. That was my first experience with having my arms straightened out by the acceleration of a fast motorcycle. I wasn’t sure I would be able to hang on. And the scariest part was that as I pulled back from the acceleration it was impossible to turn the twistgrip back to a closed throttle. That was a learning experience.

    • Scotty G Staff

      Yes, sir, you are correct!

  2. Barry T

    I had a 1972 Suzuki Titan back in the day and it was a nice bike but it sure did have crummy brakes.

  3. Howard A Member

    I remember these were serious smokers. They enjoyed a short run for a fast motorcycle, until the following year, when Honda blew them off the map with the 750, 4 cylinder. Suddenly, nobody wanted a smokey, temperamental 2 cycle with marginal brakes. Cool find, but I’d let this rest in peace. I’d be curious to know how they modified the engine to act as a 4 cycle.

    • z1rider

      Howard A,

      Ah yes, I too would like to know how the 69’s were modified to “act like a four-stroke and to use much less gas”. That doesn’t sound right.

      Any mods to make it use less gas would certainly kill the horsepower.

      • Scotty G Staff

        Apparently, Suzuki modified the piston ports to achieve that effect, and the gas savings. You’re probably correct on the hp, but 46 hp in a two-stroke twin is nothing to sneeze at.

      • geomechs geomechs Member

        I remember a kid in our town went into the city with the intention of buying a Suzuki 305. The dealer said there was a hold on them but he had a 500 ready to go. They came home with that. It seemed to me that it got somewhere in the mid-20s for gas mileage but it went like Jack, the bear. It was king of the hill till a guy showed up the following year with a Kawasaki Mach III.

  4. jim s

    i had a t500, newer then this one, which i found to be a nice roadbike, from intown to 2 up touring. would like to have one of the US model gt500’s with the disc brake. i had hoped someone who rode these would tell the story on how the tach worked. thanks

  5. rangeroger

    I owned a t500 Titan for a while and loved the bike. Powerful, easy to handle, and great fun to ride. Then it began to smoke. Usually after sitting at a light for a bit and starting to heat up. Pulled the cylinders and had the bores checked. Suzuki mechanics said they were fine. Went through the oil injection system and changed the oil pump. Finally got to the point that when I accelerated away from a light,other vehicles would have to wait for the cloud to dissipate before they could move forward. Once up to speed, it quit smoking until the next stoplight.
    The only thing I could figure out was the crank seals were bad and it was sucking oil into the combustion.
    Quit riding it and it languished in my garage until I finally gave it away. Would still like to know the real reason for the smoke-outs.

  6. stillrunners stillrunners Member

    The Suzuki 500 two stroke was a good bike and this one is a nice early example….they got the a disk brake in 1973.

    • Kevin Member

      The 1976 GT500A was the first year with a disc brake. All of the previous model years had the drums which yes, were very poor at stopping.

  7. Kevin Member

    I quote: “The owner says that the gas was drained before the bike was put into storage but they still think that the tank should be lined.”

    I’ve gone round and round with dummies who think acid etch and line/seal is the only solution to rust inside a fuel tank. As a salvage yard owner/operator I’ve been unlucky to have owned at least 15 tanks that had been lined. 13 of which were lined by narrow minded nincompoops as the lining had separated because whoever ‘lined’ them did not follow instructions TO THE LETTER!! 13 tanks into the scrap pile as there is no way to remove that s#!t. And besides, open the cap and the liner simply looks bad. Only on very rare occasions should a tank be sealed.

    I built my tank cleaner nearly 9 years ago and it’s been running nearly nonstop since. Tanks that otherwise would have been fodder for the scrap wagon, I saved and sold on eBay. Hundreds of them. And hundreds more yet to clean. They don’t re-rust after being stored for those nine long years. Yeah, you could say that I hate sealed tanks.

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